Once Again, Only CBS Spotlights Racial Overtones in Biden 'Chains' Attack

August 15th, 2012 11:57 AM

Of the three morning shows on Wednesday, only CBS acknowledged the racial tinge of Vice President Joe Biden telling a mostly black crowd that Republicans will "put y'all back in chains." ABC's Good Morning America, instead, tried to explain away and provide context for the Democrat. NBC's Today vaguely alluded to GOP concerns about the remark, but didn't mention race. (On Tuesday, the CBS Evening News was alone in making this point.)

Regarding the Vice President's assertion that Mitt Romney wants to "unchain Wall Street," CBS This Morning guest anchor Anthony Mason explained that Biden "seemed to suggest that Republicans want to put black Americans back in bondage." Correspondent Nancy Cordes hinted the Vice President was implying that the GOP "wants to put black Americans back in bondage." In contrast, GMA's David Muir simply told viewers that Biden is now "trying to explain the chains remark."

Drawing an equivalence, he played a clip of Paul Ryan saying that the Republican ticket will "unshackle the economy." Muir helpfully clarified, "Biden now saying he simply used the word unchained instead of unshackled."

On Today, co-host Matt Lauer described the gaffe-prone Vice President as "under fire." But he didn't fully explain why. Reporter Peter Alexander was even more careful. 

Before playing a clip of the "chains" statement, Alexander spun it this way: "President Joe Biden targeted Romney's fiscal policies Tuesday."

In an interview with Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, Savannah Guthrie hinted at what the actual issue is. She wondered, "Based on that response, it seems the Romney campaign sees something quite dark in what the Vice President said. Let me ask you directly, what do you think he meant?"

On CBS, host Gayle King also prodded Mitt Romney to do the explaining: "And your reaction to that - Joe Biden's comment yesterday....what did that mean to you, Governor Romney?"

If a Republican made such a racially charged remark, it seems very unlikely that NBC and ABC would be as delicate in describing what happened.

On Tuesday, the evening newscasts followed the same pattern. Only CBS found a racial undertone. For more, go here.

A transcript of the August 15 segment can be found below:


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: All four candidates out on the campaign trail now in all of the battleground states. And they're taking the war of words to a brand-new level. You know, they're going to have to get into a ring by October the way this thing is going right now. We're going to tell you all about it in just a little bit.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Race for the White House now. Your voice, your vote. And there was some hope this weekend that the choice of Paul Ryan might change the tone of this presidential race. That did not last long. The President and Vice President both taking some hits for comments they made yesterday. And Mitt Romney fired back with his most fiery rhetoric yet. ABC's David Muir is on the trail in Columbus, Ohio, with all of the details. Good morning, David.

DAVID MUIR: Hey, George. Scathing words from Mitt Romney aimed directly at the President and the Vice President. Vice president Biden trying to defend what he said in the last 24 hours. And the President himself, well, he's talking about Mitt Romney's dog. Not once, not twice, but three times.

MITT ROMNEY: This is what an angry and desperate presidency looks like.

MUIR: Mitt Romney came out swinging overnight, pouncing on comments made by Vice President Joe Biden. Biden was criticizing Mitt Romney's promise to loosen the new regulations on the big banks in Wall Street. But it was how Biden said it.

JOE BIDEN: He's going to let the big banks, once again, write their own rules. Unchain Wall Street. They're going to put y'all back in chains.

MUIR: Romney quickly taking aim at that Biden moment and at the President's campaign.

MITT ROMNEY: Wild and reckless accusations that disgrace the office of the presidency. Another outrageous charge just came a few hours ago in Virginia. And the White House sinks a little bit lower.

MUIR: Vice President Biden is now trying to explain the chains remark. Saying Republicans, including Romney's new running mate, Paul Ryan, have often spoken of–

PAUL RYAN: We'll unshackle our economy.

MUIR: Biden now saying he simply used the word unchained instead of unshackled.

BIDEN: The last time these guys unshackled the economy, to use their term, they put the middle class in shackles.

MUIR: There was no apology. In fact, the Obama campaign called Romney's speech last night unhinged. And President Obama in Iowa hit on a touchy subject again. While criticizing Romney's stance on wind energy, he brought up the story that has followed Romney about strapping the family dog to the roof of the Romneys' car. It was the third time the President brought it up.

BARACK OBAMA: That's what he said about wind power. You can't drive a car with a windmill on it. I mean, maybe he's tried it. He's put other things on the roof.

MUIR: Meantime, in Las Vegas last night, Mitt Romney's new running mate, Paul Ryan, met with hundreds of protesters, a sign of just how heated this race has become. Paul Ryan will be here in the battleground of Ohio today. Michelle Obama joining President Obama in Iowa for the first time this campaign season. But, George, given the rhetoric of the last 24 hours, we were all wondering out here, what are they going to be saying by Labor Day?